As street protests in Iran become increasingly deadly, President Ebrahim Raisi accused the West on Wednesday of maintaining a double standard on human rights.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Raisi tried to avoid the international outrage over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was in the custody of the so-called morality police in Iran. They reportedly arrested her for failing to cover her hair completely.
Raisi also used the speech to argue that Iran was keen to revive the moribund nuclear deal aimed at preventing the country from developing a bomb, but questioned whether the US could be a reliable partner anyway .
It was a rare appearance in the West by Raisi, a hardliner who became Iran’s president about a year ago.
“Human rights belong to everyone, but unfortunately many governments interfere with them,” Raisi said. He mentioned the suffering of stateless Palestinians and the detention of migrant children in the United States, being separated from their families.
The Iranian government has insisted that Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd, died of a heart attack after being detained and sent to a “re-education center” for instruction in proper attire. Iran forces all women to wear headscarves that cover their hair as well as other clothing that is considered modest.
Amini’s family insist she was healthy and had no heart condition. The government has ordered an investigation.
Her death sparked protests in several Iranian cities, some involving women torching their headscarves. On Wednesday, seven people were reported killed in the demonstrations and security forces moved to crack down on the protesters.
“Iranian security forces will continue to feel emboldened to kill or injure protesters and prisoners, including women arrested for violating abusive mandatory eviction laws, if they are not held accountable,” said Diana Eltahawy, deputy the Middle East director for Amnesty International, in a statement. She also demanded an independent investigation and criticized Raisi being given a world stage amid her abuses of Iran.
In other comments, Raisi said his government had a “great and serious will” to return to the nuclear deal in 2015, a landmark international agreement reached by the Obama administration and six other countries. It severely curtailed Iran’s atomic energy program and was designed to prevent the country from developing a bomb.
But President Trump scrapped the deal in 2018, saying it did not go far enough to constrain Iran. Tehran began enriching uranium, a key component in nuclear weapons. When Joe Biden was elected, the US entered into indirect negotiations with Iran through the European signatories of the treaty in an attempt to revive it.
Those talks were stopped several times due to demands from both sides. Iran is seeking relief from US-imposed economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
“We have the experience of withdrawing America” from the market, said Raisi. “With that experience and this attitude, can we ignore the important issue of guarantees for a permanent agreement?”
“We only want one thing: to keep promises,” said Raisi.
Biden, who also addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday, said the US also wanted to re-enter the agreement. But he said Iran had to fulfill its obligations, including allowing the UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out extensive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Although it is also part of the 2015 agreement, Tehran has recently tried to keep inspectors away from some of its installations.
“The United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” said Biden, who also offered support to the demonstrators in Iran who he said are trying to “secure their basic rights.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.